Nfld. & Labrador

To fight the effects of climate change, Portugal Cove-St. Philip's is hiring some help

The town joins the City of St. John's in creating a position to improve conservation and reduce emissions.

Federal government kicking in 80 per cent of the funding

Portugal Cove-St. Philip's is hiring a new staff member: a climate change coordinator. (Marilyn Boone/CBC)

In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint and mitigate the effects of climate change, the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's is hiring someone whose sole job will be to do exactly that.

For the last seven years, the town has partnered with the Stewardship Association of Municipalities, an organization committed to conservation in towns across the province, and it formed its own environment advisory committee.

Jeff Lawlor, the town's director of economic development, marketing and communications, says the hope is the new climate change co-ordinator will take that work to the next level by digging into recommendations coming out of two climate adaptation projects and looking into town operations.

"We're going to look at our fleets and our facilities and see how we can actually reduce the greenhouse emissions from an operational standpoint, so we can be making a difference here at the town hall," Lawlor told CBC Radio's On The Go.

The new staff position — which will pay $80,000 over two years — is 80 per cent funded by the federal government, Lawlor said. 

The issues

Most climate issues within Portugal Cove-St Philip's will be revealed through the town's climate change adaptation projects, Lawlor said.

For the coastal community, things such as sea level rise, an increase in storm surges and extreme weather events are hovering around at the top of the list of concerns.

An aerial photo taken from a helicopter in 2010 shows a bridge completely swept away, after Hurricane Igor ripped through eastern Newfoundland. (CBC)

However, Lawlor says, the town cannot take on the fight alone. 

"We've had the opportunity to share a lot of best practices with a lot of our neighbouring municipalities throughout Canada, and you're seeing major weather events," he said. 

"So, we're looking at all those communities across Canada, and within our own province, to try and make sure that we're ready for those events, and the inevitability of those events."

Learning from the past

Support for the new staff position has been unanimous across council, the various committees and the community, Lawlor said, and he hopes his town will be leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador in effecting change.

"We need to see some local changes to build the trust and to build the excitement in what can be climate change adaptation and mitigation," he said.

St. John's on board

The City of St. John's has hired its own co-ordinator, who reports to the Department of Public Works and focuses on the planning and implementation of municipal climate change priorities, according to the city's job description. The position pays about $125,000 a year.

Coun. Ian Froude told CBC News at the time the intent was to have someone in the public works department looking across all city operation for ways to reduce the city's environmental impact as well as the cost.

With the job filled, the city will also have access to federal funding for programs to address greenhouse gas emissions and environmental initiatives. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go

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